The day has come for Microsoft to try and right the wrongs it did with the release of Windows 8, an operating system that practically rewrote how Windows was seen and used, and ended up confusing a bunch of people in the process. The next version is out and won’t cost you money, so here’s how to get it.
Available from today, Windows 8.1 will bring forth improvements to functionality that many Windows 8 users have cried out for, while also attempting to make Microsoft’s operating system easier to use, which has also been something many people have criticised the most recent version of Windows for.
One of these things was that the Start button went missing in Windows 8, and just after we had all gotten so used to it in Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7.
Sure, Microsoft had to change it eventually, but shifting the functionality of that button to a grid-based menu system designed more for touch screens wasn’t quite the change everyone had expected Microsoft to make, and as such, many people were annoyed.
So that’s back in Windows 8.1.
Sort of, anyway. You’ll have a Start button on the Desktop that will take you to the grid menu, but at least it’s better than nothing.
It will also offer access to your shut down and restart options more easily, though if that’s not enough for you, there’s always another way return the Windows 7 Start button and functionality without updating.
The Windows 8.1 release will also fix something that Microsoft did in Windows 8 where it only allowed two apps on screen at any one time in Windows 8’s native mode, and only in quadrants of one quarter and three quarters.
Under 8.1, those divisions are a little more playful, and depending on the resolution your screen has, you can have as many as four apps running in native 8 mode, so that’s great too.
The Windows 8 app store also looks a little better, there’s an apps menu shortcut on the main grid Start menu which should help people without touch screens, and a new version of Internet Explorer, too.
Installing it on most Windows 8 boxes should be pretty easy, and you’ll find it in the Windows Store, and not under the updates section in Windows 8.
That said, if it’s not visible in the Store, head to the updates section and look for an optional update from Microsoft (KB2883201) and install that.
Once it’s downloaded and done, you should be able to see Windows 8 in your Store, and then download and install it.
As a warning, this is a 3.6GB file, and rather than have one download that you can install multiple times, you’ll need to do this on separate machines, which is a strange and slightly silly move from Microsoft, but that’s just how it is.
Maybe Microsoft will change this later on, but for now, if you have multiple Windows 8 machines to update, you’ll be downloading multiple lots of 3.6GB.
Remember that before you update, it’s always good to back up any critical files. We haven’t seen many horror stories yet, but before any major update, make sure to plug in a USB stick or hard drive and get anything important backed up somewhere easily accessible.